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10-1 offers District 2 residents a louder voice

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 by Michael Kanin

The Dove Springs Neighborhood, which takes up much of the new City Council District 2, is possibly the best example backers of the city’s 10-1 District system can point to for why Austin needs single-member districts.

The area is – by any number of measures – one of the poorest in the city, with a history of some of the highest rates of crime, unemployment and urban blight. And some say it has, over time, been one of the most neglected part of the city by Austin’s at-large Council, though that has begun to turn around in recent years.

The area is primarily south and east of Ben White Boulevard and east of Interstate 35. Its two major landmarks are Austin Bergstrom International Airport and the Circuit of the America’s Formula 1 race track. Its eastern edge blends into the southeast portions of Travis County.

A look at the numbers for District 2 show an area that mostly Hispanic (69 percent – the highest of any district), with slightly more than 50 percent of its residences owner–occupied, though almost 25 percent of its residents live in poverty. It has a median family income of just $38,000 a year, one of the lowest in the city.

District 2 has a large population of younger people, with more than 40 percent of its population in the 18-to-24 age bracket – twice the average for the rest of Austin. The area’s population has increase by 33 percent since 2000, putting even more pressure on the services in the neighborhood.

However, despite some of the bad numbers, Dove Springs and the surrounding neighborhoods have shown signs of a comeback in recent years. The area took a major economic hit in the late 1990s when personnel from Bergstrom Air Force base left with its closing, but those residents have been replaced with new ones over the past decade.

Many city services have improved in recent years with the construction of new parks and recreation centers. The bad old days of high crime and gang activity from the 1980s and early ‘90s are mostly gone, though there is still crime and some gang problems in the area. Civic leaders say while things have improved in some areas, the neighborhood is still lacking for many amenities that are standard in other parts of the city.

Only two people have signed up to run for the Council seat that will represent District 2 are local attorney Delia Garza and business owner Edward Reyes.

Garza is an Assistant Attorney General in the Child Support Division and a former Austin firefighter who spent her entire career at South Austin stations. She left the fire department to get a law degree. She volunteers as a mentor at Rodriguez Elementary, through the Seedling Foundation. Garza also serves on the board of Hermanos de East Austin, the Dove Springs Recreation Center Advisory Board and the Capital City A&M Club Scholarship Committee.

She says she will work to ensure transparency and efficiency in city government, alleviate traffic and improve public transit, fight for affordability, protect the community with exceptional public safety services, provide resources for community health and wellness, work with AISD to provide quality education and provide equitable economic development through living wages, safety protections and good benefits.

Reyes is the owner of A. Reyes Tree Service. He is the president of the Dove Springs Neighborhood Association and serves as the 78744 representative for the city’s Community Development Corporation. Reyes was born in Dove Springs, and believes that “strong families and engaged neighborhoods are the key to District 2’s future.” He participated in daily cleanups following the Halloween Floods in Dove Springs, and cites work as a community organizer in his past.

His platform focuses on families, the economy and the community. Reyes says that the community is in need of a paradigm shift to inclusion, and he will work at being a “catalyst toward positive change” to correct negative impacts in his community regarding education, health care, transportation and economic disparities.”

Senior Reporter Elizabeth Pagano contributed to the preparation of this article.

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